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Are You, Your Family, Or Friends Allergic To "Allergic Reactions?"

Jun 5, 2008
What happens in your body when it triggers an allergic reaction?

An allergic reaction is your body's way of attacking an "invader." When the body senses a foreign substance, called an antigen, the immune system attacks. The immune system is designed to protect the body from harmful substances such as poisons and bacteria. However, when the body overreacts to harmless stimuli (the allergen), it is considered a hypersensitivity, or an allergic reaction.

The body can incorrectly identify many things as threats. Certain types of foods, pollen, insect bites, and dust all serve as allergens for different people.

How do allergic reactions manifest themselves?

The allergic reaction can range from mild to severe, ranging from a runny nose, headaches and rashes to dangerous anaphylaxis.

Anaphylaxis can be combination of allergic symptoms that occur rapidly and can be life threatening. One of these symptoms is shock. Shock means that the organs are not getting enough blood due to low blood pressure. Therefore the organs cannot function properly which can lead to unconsciousness or heart failure. The other symptom of anaphylaxis is trouble breathing or the complete inability to breath.

Most allergic reactions are much milder. Milder reactions may involve skin irritations, coughing, wheezing, headaches, swollen eyelids and lips, stuffy nose, sneezing, itchy or watery eyes, stomach pain, vomiting or diarrhea.

What can you do to feel better?

First, get away and stay away from the allergen.

If the symptoms are at all serious contact medical help immediately. The allergic reaction can worsen within minutes.

If one is prone to severe reactions, such as anaphylaxis, he can get a "bee-sting kit." This contains one dose of epinephrine which you can inject into yourself as soon as you realize that you have come into contact with an allergen that you are hypersensitive to. It can literally save your life.

Seven years ago, Natan Walters was on a school trip when he accidentally ate a peanut butter cookie, thinking that it did not contain peanuts. He passed away within several hours before even getting home.

If symptoms are mild they may well respond to simple allergy medicines:

Oral antihistamines help relieve symptoms. Also, anti-inflammatory steroid creams can be effective for skin reactions. For small skin reactions try wet, cold compresses.

Are there any long-term cures for allergic reactions?

Allergy shot treatments can be given to alter the immune system response. These do not help with current symptoms; but rather attempt to immunize the body against future attacks. The patient receives a series of injections of the allergens. Each injection contains a slightly higher dose of the allergen, giving the patient the opportunity to get used to the allergen in small doses, or to become desensitized to it.

How can one live comfortably with allergies?

First, you must identify the things that cause you allergic reactions. Then you must learn to avoid them.

Skin testing is one of the best methods of determining which allergens a person is hypersensitive to. The tests require exposing the skin to small amounts of various substances and watching to see what the body reacts to these substances.

Blood tests can also help to identify antibodies that create allergic reactions.

Also, people, especially children, with severe reactions can wear bracelets or pendants identifying them as having specific, dangerous allergies. This can save time in a severe allergic reaction, should the victim become confused or unconscious.

Check in advance what products may contain your allergens and read the labels. For example, someone who is allergic to peanuts should stay away from other nut spreads because the same machinery is used to process both. Sometimes the machinery is not cleaned properly after peanuts are processed and small amounts of peanuts can get into other nut products. That small amount (1/200 of a peanut) is enough to cause a harmful allergic reaction. Another example is that one needs to be aware that peanuts are often used in candies and chocolates.

Another precaution for people who have severe reactions, is to know locations, phone numbers of medical centers so they can get to one as quickly as possible.

In Summary

We have seen that allergic reactions can be mild or severe. There are treatments for the reaction when it occurs and one should learn as much as possible about his own allergens. Some of the allergies can be cured by "desensitization" injections. It is also best to know what to avoid in order to prevent an allergic reaction, and how to react should one occur. Given adequate preparation and care, one can live a good life in spite of one's allergies.
About the Author
Louis Beardman writes interesting articles on subjects that matter. More information about allergic reactions.
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